NCCI XXIX General Assembly 2023 – Biblical Nuances of the Hour

Biblical nuances of the hour

The hour has come; … let us be going.  Mark 14:41-42

The Context

After Passover celebrations, Jesus and his disciples headed over to Gethsemane to pray. Passover was an occasion to remember how God delivered and freed Israel from foreign oppression. It was a time of great patriotic and messianic anticipation. Jerusalem was overcrowded with multitudes imbued with messianic expectation and it was significant during the period of Roman colonialism. The presence of Jesus in Jerusalem augmented the expectation of people, while the colonial authorities and the religious leaders were disturbed. Their disturbance took the form of a conspiratorial nexus  with the sole aim of annihilating Jesus. The Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, and elders, along with Judas, one of the disciples of Jesus, and Roman soldiers joined together as part of this nexus. Their main obstacle was the crowd (Mark 14:1–2). Jesus’s withdrawal for prayer can be seen in this background. Jesus was aware of the consequences of the consolidation of the powerful against him. While he was going through the agony, in prayer, he turned to the disciples whom he instructed to remain there and keep awake (v.34) but they were sleeping. This was a highly terrifying situation; Jesus was praying so as to avoid a direct confrontation and Mark described it saying “if it were possible, the hour might pass from him” (v.35). But ‘the hour has come’ and with that realisation Jesus awakens the disciples, who couldn’t read the signs of the time, and said ‘enough’ ‘let us be going..’ (v. 42). Although the word ‘enough’ denotes sorrowful expostulation, the rest of his words show the determination of Jesus to face the situation courageously, whatever the consequences may be.  It shows Jesus’s firm decision to proclaim God’s glory by being part of the struggles and pathos of the common people struggling under the yoke of Roman imperialism and its manifestation of power in different ways.

  1. The hour exposes the intensity of prevailing evil

The hour is an occasion to realise how repressive and coercive powers craft their trickeries to cover up the realities of the world by annihilating truth and justice. Power seeks to coercively ‘discipline’ the world and those who do not come into its brand of discipline face the consequences. Jesus was not under the discipline of the power structures of the system during that period. Therefore, Jesus was considered to be an avoidable nuisance by many elites who transacted power during that time. Judas Iscariot was a simple instrument used to extinguish Jesus. Therefore, Jesus boldly exposed the conspiracy by saying, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18). Power never values relationships. One among his disciples who walked with him, ate with him and was with him till that night became a deceiver. A powerful sign of love – the kiss – was made a sign of betrayal. Mark asserts this moment as significant saying, “the hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mark 14:41).  The Markan expression ‘Son of man’ is a representation of the entirety of humanhood that has become victim to the fraudulence of the powerful and to their nexus in the world. The hour here exposes how the strategies of the powermongers can easily take over truth and its manifestation of justice.

2.The hour exposes God who is active in history.  

Jesus makes it plain from the very outset that his life and work is ordered by the Father’s chronology, not his own. Thus, he cautions his mother at the wedding feast in Cana that “my hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). The phrase ‘the hour’ in this context can be seen as that which points towards the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. The eschatological element in the fourth gospel is not accidental rather it is fundamental and denotes the glorification of Christ over all the forces of death. It is an assurance that God is active in history and for John it is a faith assurance that he wants to communicate to his readers. In John’s gospel we see an explicit connection between the glory of Jesus and the hour of his suffering and death. This specifically encourages all believers that our life is in the chronological order of God and hence we should not be discouraged even in the midst of the terrifying incidents in our life.

  1. The hour is a call to act and continue to keep perseverance.

“Get up, let us be going. Look, my betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14: 42) is an inspiring utterance of Jesus. Although he has clarity about what is going to happen in the next hour, he takes the courage to face it because for him his suffering, which underlines his humanity and vulnerability, stands in contrast to his vindication through the resurrection. Therefore, ‘the hour’ becomes an opportunity to act. Mordecai’s reminder to Esther in the book of Esther 4: 14 is relevant to this context; “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”  “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:32–33). Recognising the call of the hour is important. “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber” (Rom 13:11).

4.The hour is a call for resistance and struggle:

it is also an hour of urgency, for God’s clock ticks on toward the end of all things “ Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour”(1 Jn 2:18).  As he reflects from his exile on the island of Patmos, John sees another hour on its way. This is “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world…”(Rev 3:10). This hour has been highlighted as the hour of resilience. Resilience reminds us of the innate capacity of affected communities to recover on their own from the catastrophes of the time. It characterises the ability to endure, resist, adapt to, and timely recover from disturbances. Revelation 3: 10 says; “Because you have kept my word of endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” It gives the power to navigate through adverse situations. Therefore, the hour is an invitation to move ahead with clear understanding that it is a struggle and that despite this one should not lose the spirit of endurance even amidst devastating contexts.

  1. The hour is a call to participate in resurrection

John 12: 23,24 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. This is a call for authentic discipleship, which is nothing but following in the footsteps of Jesus. The cost for the discipleship is life itself.  It is a call for dying for a cause and therefore it is an invitation to risk life to have life in abundance. The blooming of life can be envisaged amidst death and that is the eschatological dimension highlighted through resurrection. However, without being an authentic disciple, nobody can be part of resurrection. Earthly hours are important although experiences of cross are embedded in it. But an authentic disciple of Jesus visualises a blooming cross because on the cross life germinates from death and the resurrection is celebrated.

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